Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dissonance as a Way of Life

The (mostly) scientific groupies who write for and comment on Panda's Thumb and similar sites/publications appear to go through life in a haze of incoherency. The only alternative explanation is that they possess a fox-like craftiness. Most likely the reality is some malodorous admixture of both species.

Now, I can understand how people have different world-views, but I can't understand how people are comfortable with a personal philosophy that is not, at a minimum, largely self-consistent.

Their surrealism (or disingenuousness) allows them to imply that (a) abiogenesis is easy, and certainly the universe is teeming with life, and therefore earth is not privileged--but then, when it suits them, claim (b) abiogenesis is difficult, which is why it defies explanation and why we don't see it happening all the time in field, or why we can't coax it along in a controlled, laboratory experiment.

Or, it allows them to argue that (a) ID is not science because it doesn't publish peer-reviewed papers and (b) peer-reviewed journals should reject ID papers as unscientific and (c) nevertheless, IDers enjoy a level publication playing field.

And all the while they make these arguments about the primacy of peer-review, we are supposed to, out of courtesy, be silent about the fact that their alpha attack-dog "scientist" has not published a peer-reviewed scientific paper this millennium.

Moving on, they will argue that it is the IDers who wish to impose their religion on society at large--while heaping accolades on their guru, Richard Dawkins, who believes that parents who raise their children in their religion are committing child abuse. Is the implication of what will happen to religious families, should Dawkins's bigotry ever go mainstream, not clear?

Similarly, they will argue like libertarians if a local government mandates the teaching of ID along with evolution, and turn around and argue like totalitarians if a local government simply permits it. No government intervention can be their mantra in Georgia, on Tuesday, while the government must take control of a school's curriculum will do nicely on Wednesday, in California.

Or it allows to them to argue (actually, in this case, lie is probably more accurate) that the Catholic Church is fine with evolution period, when in fact the Catholic Church is demonstrably fine only with a very narrow perspective: theistic evolution. If pressed too hard, their arguments will start sounding like: individual Catholics (meaning Ken Miller) get to define what the Catholic Church stands for, not the anachronistic pope, and not the obscure Magisterium.

And speaking of theistic evolution, they will at times argue that it is indistinguishable from "regular" evolution or, if politically expedient (or, more likely, if caught off-guard) will treat it as little more than religious charlatanry. So while, for effect, they make Ken Miller dance for the cameras, the view behind the curtain is all Sam Harris (HT Telic Thoughts):
It is time that scientists and other public intellectuals observed that the contest between faith and reason is zero-sum. There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.
In fact, in some strange ironic twist, the owners of Panda's Thumb, who claim Christianity, seem not to realize that, below the surface, they are mocked and used by those who benefit from their efforts. Or, to be more charitable, they perhaps are rationalizing that there is nothing they can do to avoid being taken advantage of by the Sam Harris-like Dawkins worshippers who, given the chance, will tolerate them just a wee bit longer than they will tolerate the likes of me.

It is just unimaginable.

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